Northumberland councillors have given the go-ahead for the North East’s Regional Adoption Agency, which is due to go live on December 1.
Northumberland is working with North Tyneside, Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside councils on its agency, to be called Adopt North East.
North Tyneside Council is to act as the lead and host authority for Adopt North East, with the final steps being approved by Northumberland County Council’s decision-making cabinet on last Tuesday. The other local authorities are also due to give their support this month ahead of final approval in October.
Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, explained that the aim is ‘to create an excellent adoption service that transforms children’s lives’.
The council’s executive director of children’s services, Cath McEvoy added that it was ‘not necessarily about saving money, but about timeliness’.
It was pointed out that while Northumberland would contribute the largest proportion of money to the agency – around £650,000 or 27 per cent of the total – this was due to a larger number of adoptions in the county. The average cost in Northumberland is £22,000 to £23,000 per adoption which is the second lowest in the region.
Council leader Peter Jackson said that he was surprised at the number of adoptions taking place in Northumberland – 30 to 37 a year.
He asked for assurances that support for adopters would continue to be there, adding: “You have to take off your hat to host families.”
Coun Daley said that it was not about reducing support and a key element of the scheme was post-adoption support to try to reduce the large number of placements which collapse.
The development of regional adoption agencies is part of the national agenda set out by the Department for Education in two papers in 2015 and 2016.
The Government has signalled a clear intention that by 2020 all local authorities will be part of regional agencies.
After the meeting, Coun Daley said: “Delivering the best possible care and providing the best possible outcome for children and young people in Northumberland is our absolute priority.
“By collaborating with other local authorities to develop a regional adoption agency, we will provide more coordinated opportunities for finding adoptive families for our children where this is needed. Working as one service made up of the five local authority social work adoption teams will allow us to build on the great work that is already being delivered in the region.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service